Judicial Qualifications Committee Annual Report
The purpose of the Judicial Qualifications Committee (JQC) is to assist the public and public officials in the appointment or election of members of the judiciary.
This year’s JQC was comprised of twenty-six members of the Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association (TPCBA), representing a broad cross-section of Pierce County’s legal community (committee roster attached to this report). Committee composition consisted of sixteen members of the civil bar, three family law attorneys, five members of the criminal defense bar, and two criminal prosecutors, one state and one federal. Like the 2014 committee, the 2015 JQC was smaller when compared to past years. The reduction in committee size appeared to result in greater consistency in member attendance. The resulting continuity in committee composition led to greater consistency and equity in the rating of candidates seeking evaluation for the same judicial position.
Prior to each meeting, JQC members were tasked with reviewing extensive written materials required of each candidate seeking evaluation. Additionally, members were tasked with performing a series of reference checks for each candidate, including prior opposing counsels, professional colleagues, and personal references. Following compilation and review of all pre-interview materials required for evaluation, committee members would convene for pre-interview discussion regarding the contents of the candidate’s written materials and reference checks. The committee would then interview the candidate, asking both standard questions as well as questions pertaining to the candidates resume and the specific judicial position for which the candidate was seeking a rating. After the interview, the committee would deliberate through the lens of the established rating criteria and then vote upon what rating that candidate would receive. Candidates were rated against the criteria, not against the other candidates. After the candidate was rated, all written materials submitted by the candidate for review were collected and destroyed, and the committee chairs informed the candidates of their ratings.
Needless to say, the time commitment required of each JQC member is considerable. Preinterview review of candidate materials, reference checks, pre-interview discussion, candidate interview, deliberation and rating, often require committee members to spend several hours per candidate. The JQC convened twice in 2015, evaluating two candidates seeking appointment to the Superior Court bench. The JQC also provided ratings for candidates who had been rated within the past four years and chose not to be re-evaluated. The JQC provided all of these ratings to the Governor for consideration during the course of the Superior Court appointment process.
Margaret Archer and Tim Lewis, JQC Co-Chairs